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Salon.com [Premium]: Buy Linux. It's the Law

Aug 27, 2002, 22:00 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Farhad Manjoo)

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[Editor's Note: This article has been posted on Salon.com as part of its premium package, which means you need to subscribe to the online magazine to view it in it's entirety. While Linux Today normally refrains from providing links to non-free articles, so many contributors submitted this article it was decided to make an exception in this case. Providing a link to the story is not an encouragement to subscribe; we're just pointing out that the article is out there. -BKP]

"Walt Pennington is a tort lawyer and a member of the San Diego Linux Users Group, and that's about it. He's not an author, a politician or a nationally renowned free-software evangelist. A Google search on "Walt Pennington" gets about 200 results, a Nexis search less than five -- and every article there is new, having to do with what seems to be Pennington's only claim to semi-fame: his recent idea that the state of California purchase only open-source software for its governmental operations.

"Perhaps because of Pennington's obscurity -- his everyman persona -- his idea is receiving considerable attention in the software industry. For years, open-source software programs such as Linux -- for which all the underlying code is made publicly available -- have been making waves in the software marketplace, challenging even such behemoths as Microsoft. One of Microsoft's biggest markets is government; California alone spends billions of dollars a year on information technology.

"For a nobody -- just a concerned citizen -- Pennington has, so far, shown a lot of political savvy. Just look at the name of his proposal: the Digital Software Security Act. It has that pleasing hollowness of most legislative labels these days, a name that's intentionally vague as to the bill's actual purpose. Pennington's use of the word "security" is a red herring. When you talk to him about his idea, he doesn't argue that the state should use open-source software because open software is more secure -- or, in fact, better at anything -- than closed software; instead, he says, open software is cheaper and its licensing conditions less restrictive than proprietary software, and the state shouldn't be wasting money on expensive code that it can't tinker with..."

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